Thursday, 02 June 2022

Unveiling of Dame Roma Mitchell Portrait

Rod and I are very pleased to be here with you for this important event.

This evening, the third woman to be Governor of South Australia, joins the third woman to be Lord Mayor of Adelaide, to welcome the third portrait of a woman ever to hang in the Council Chamber: Dame Roma Mitchell.

The Adelaide City Council is the oldest municipal government in Australia.

Its Council Chamber is both beautiful and historic, the walls covered with portraits of men whose lives and achievements have shaped our city.

I commend the Adelaide City Council for its decision to introduce the representation of more women to the space, creating a more accurate, complete and vibrant story about Adelaide and South Australia.

Dame Roma is one of the most recognised and highly regarded women in South Australia’s history.

This evening the Lord Mayor will share Dame Roma’s story in some detail. I simply emphasise four ground-breaking achievements: the first woman in Australia to be a Queen’s Counsel, a Supreme Court judge, a University Chancellor and a State Governor.

She was, her whole career, one of South Australia’s fiercest champions.

In the book “Dame Roma: Glimpses of a Glorious Life”, Peter Bassett, who was Dame Roma’s Official Secretary, says she could not have imagined living anywhere else.

Dame Roma was appointed Governor at the age of 78, but maintained a dynamic program.

She was patron to hundreds of organisations, and took this role seriously.

She hosted or attended many hundreds of events during her term, all with grace and showing genuine personal interest in her guests or hosts.

She travelled to every corner of our State, including the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal lands, where she formed close relationships with the indigenous community and was made patron of the Women’s Council.

She also led overseas delegations well into her eighties, including to China and Indonesia.

Dame Roma was highly regarded by Her Majesty the Queen – the first woman to have her portrait hung in this chamber.

During her term, whenever Dame Roma visited London whether officially or privately, her Official Secretary would write to the Queen’s Private Secretary to advise she was available, should Her Majesty wish to see her.

Her Majesty always wished to see her.

And, shortly before Dame Roma’s death in March 2000, Her Majesty invested her as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, in recognition of her personal service to the Sovereign.

Dame Roma was a trailblazer.

She gave South Australian women a new vision for what might be possible for their lives, and it is a great pleasure for me, both personally and professionally, to know her portrait will be on display.

As a young woman undertaking my secondary and tertiary education here in Adelaide, Dame Roma was someone I looked up to greatly, as did my sister Christine, now a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

I thank the artist, Kate Kurucz [KUR-UKS], for completing the artwork that will be unveiled shortly.

I have no doubt it will capture Dame Roma’s strength, compassion and gravitas and will be a worthy companion to the statue of Dame Roma on North Terrace, outside Government House.

Whenever I walk past, I am reminded of the enormous contribution Dame Roma made to our society, and the legacy she has left us.

And now, all those who enter the Council Chamber will also be reminded of this.

I thank the Lord Mayor and Councillors for their commitment to celebrating extraordinary women such as Dame Roma, and in doing so, supporting the advancement of women and pursuing gender equality in our state.

Coming events